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Theatre of dreams

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Waverly never tired of the audiences applause at the end of the show. She had been dressing on the play now for six months, and whilst she stood in the wings and waited for the final curtain call to complete, she couldn’t help the smile on her face.

She initially had only started dressing for the wardrobe department as a favour to Chrissy-her friend from home, who had left their small town in the middle of nowhere to pursue a career in the theatre. After taking a course at a reputable drama school, Chrissy had advanced quickly in the ranks of Wardrobe and was now running her own department on a VERY successful show in the city. Waverly had joined her soon after and when Chrissy had been let down by one of the girls who worked for her, she had phoned Waverly and asked if she could step in.

Waverly had been nervous at first, having no previous experience working in the theatre, but as Chrissy had talked her through it and shadowed her for a couple of shows, Waverly realised that the clue was in the title. She was literally dressing someone before they went on stage.

And that someone happened to be Nicole Haught.

Famed for a string of Hollywood blockbusters and subsequent lead role on America’s highest rating medical drama, she was currently wowing audiences up and down the theatre world with her performance of Emma in ‘People, Places and Things’-a hard hitting play about drug addiction.

Waverly wasn’t quite sure how Nicole managed to pull such a performance out of the bag every night-and at first she was a little star struck to meet and work with the enigmatic star-but that feeling quickly subsided, and whilst she still had the utmost respect for the actor, she no longer found her intimidating. They had worked closely now for half a year, and Waverly was sure they could even call each other friends

The curtain eventually came down and Nicole walked into the wings with the rest of the cast, talking animatedly with one of her co-stars about the meal they were all about to head to. The run was ending in a fortnight so lots of socializing had been planned, making sure the company could finish this job on a high.

Nicole handed Waverly the jacket she was carrying and smiled, thanking her as always, and then laying a hand on Jeremy, the show caller, and thanking him too for another excellent nights work.

The two actors then continued their conversation and their journey to the dressing rooms, agreeing that everyone should be as quick as they could and meet in the bar next door for a post-show drink before moving on to the restaurant.

Waverly hung up the jacket in the quick change area and moved back to Jeremy, waiting for him to finish a backstage call, telling everyone how long the show had been and what their call time would be for the following days performance. Once he’d finished, he swung round in his chair and grinned at his friend

“How was that for you?” Waverly asked-they did this every night, checking in with each other to see whether the show ran smoothly or if there were any problems.

“Good, clean show so that’s nice! I’m going to head and do the show report with Dolls, then get next door for a drink-you coming?” Jeremy replied with a smile

“I’m on laundry, so I’ll meet you at the restaurant in about an hour-save me a space though-I don’t want to end up sitting alone with Matt whilst you swoon over Perry’” Waverly said.

Matt was one of the lighting guys., and whilst he was a nice enough man, talking about electrics seemed to be the only thing in his repertoire, and Waverly could only bear that for so long.

She headed up the wings towards the backstage corridor and round to dressing room number one, where Nicole would now hopefully be out of her costume and ready for Waverly to collect her laundry. She knocked and waited to hear Nicole grant her entry. She could hear Nicole was on the phone-probably embroiled in another row with her wife Shae, a woman, in Waverly’s opinion, who was not supportive enough, or even NICE enough to be with someone like Nicole.

Waverly was smitten, there was no denying it-but then again, everyone who met Nicole was smitten almost instantly. She had an air about her that was almost indescribable-and she always made you feel like the best part of her day was seeing you. She was genuine and warm, and for someone so famous, she had her head firmly planted on her shoulders.

Waverly was brought out of her thoughts by Nicole’s voice permitting whoever was knocking to enter during a pause in her conversation on the phone. Waverly opened the door and Nicole turned and smiled at her as she mouthed a ‘sorry’ and did an eye roll at whatever was being said to her on the other end.

“Look, I know... but... could you just... let me finish please...” Nicole said exasperatedly.

Waverly went about picking through the costume and hanging up what needed hanging up and scooping up the laundry basket Nicole had filled with the things that needed washing for the following day.

As a dresser, Chrissy had warned Waverly that she would see and hear things others never would, and that discretion was imperative-especially when dealing with someone as high profile as Nicole Haught, and ultimately, that level of trust was what brought the women closer together.

Waverly headed to the door and offered the actor a smile as she left, hearing Nicole trying to speak once again to whomever was ranting at her.

Waverly visited all the other dressing rooms and collected all the show laundry then walked down to the basement, where the wardrobe department was based and where all the laundry machines were waiting for Waverly to fill and start. Chrissy was just finishing getting changed for the company outing when Waverly entered with the baskets

“Are you sure I can’t stay and help?” Chrissy asked, stopping from putting her jacket on

“No, seriously, it’s my turn-you did it last night, and you’re doing tomorrow! It’s just a couple of loads on a quick wash-I’ll be with you before you know it-PLUS, Michael is waiting for you downstairs, and he looks HANDSOME! So go, get a drink with your boy and I’ll see you at the restaurant okay?” Waverly replied to her friend.

Waverly loved working with Chrissy, and if she had been worried about them living and working together, than she needn’t have been-it worked well for them both.

Waverly connected her phone to the Bluetooth speaker and started separating the clothes in front of her. She loved her own company and was happily singing away to herself when she turned back from the pile and realised she was not alone.

Nicole Haught was standing in the doorway, a smile on her face and a show bra hanging from her outstretched finger

“Jesus fucking Christ Nicole” Waverly gasped as she caught sight of the woman for the first time “ever heard of announcing yourself?!”

“Oh stop it...” Waverly replied with a smile

“I forgot to give you my show bra...” Nicole said as she swung the offending item from her fingers once more

“Of all the things you’ve said to me-that’s DEFINITELY high up there as the best” Waverly deadpanned as she walked over to Nicole and took the bra from her hand.

Nicole laughed heartily and smiled

“I’m nothing if not a romantic...You’re coming tonight right?” Nicole asked, changing the conversation from the mildly flirty banter that had started between the women

“Yeah, but I’ve gotta do this first, so won’t make the drinks-I’ll be at the meal though for sure-just a little later than everyone else”

“Well that’s why I thought I’d bring you this”” Nicole said, producing a bottle of champagne from behind her back “I thought maybe I could help and we could share a drink”

“Help?” Waverly replied, arching an eyebrow. “Nicole Haught wants to help me do laundry...? Nope, not buying it... come on... spill... what’s going on?”

“Why is it so hard to believe I want to help with the laundry?”

“It’s laundry, no-one WANTS to help with laundry-but people DO want to use wardrobe as a sanctuary, so come on, out with it” Waverly responded. She would never have spoken to Nicole like this six months ago, but they had struck up an easy rapport with each other and Nicole liked that Waverly treated her like she did everyone.

“Okay, fine... Shae and I are divorcing, and I thought that the one person I can trust with this information and the fact that I am celebrating is you-you’ve seen it all and heard it all between us, so as a thank you, I thought we could toast to the ending of my marriage and the fact that you no longer have to put up with my rude wife” Nicole said as she produced two glasses and an ice bucket (seemingly from nowhere).

Waverly stopped what she was doing and looked over at Nicole. She knew the marriage was rocky-hell everyone knew that, but divorce? That was a surprise.

“Oh Cole I’m sorry...” Waverly replied.

She would never usually call her by her nickname-that right was reserved for very close friends and family, but Waverly had been around Nicole enough to know that at this moment, that’s exactly what she needed-and in the absence of one of those, Waverly was her go to.

Nicole smiled and shook her head

“Don’t be... it was my decision, and had been a long time coming-we haven’t been together for over a year, but I think I’m ready to move on, and I can’t do that if I’m still married-both morally and publicly...” Nicole explained, without a hint of sadness

“A year?!” Waverly repeated “Jesus, you kept that quiet”

“When you’re as famous as I am, you learn pretty quickly what to show and what to keep hidden...” Nicole chuckled “so how about it… Can I tempt you to a glass before I have to go out there and be Nicole Haught again?’”

Waverly smiled softly. Nicole was unbelievably attractive, never more so then after a show. Her hair was tied back and she had just a lick of mascara and some lip gloss on. Elegance came naturally to Nicole, and her pale skin was unblemished. She managed to pull off the casual look effortlessly, and this evening was wearing some high waisted black skinny jeans and a cream blouse that she had tucked in to accentuate her long legs. She had a pair of knee length boots on, that were only a couple of inches high, so making her just shy of 6ft. She had laid her denim jacket on the arm of the tatty old sofa Chrissy kept in the basement and was looking hopefully at Waverly.

“Okay, fine… but you’re not touching the laundry-you can sit there and keep out of my way” Waverly said with a smile.

Nicole flashed her dimples once more and popped the cork.

“You know, if any of my people heard you talking to me like this, they’d try and have you fired” Nicole replied. Waverly had resumed her task and didn’t look back as she responded “That’s why you need people like me in your life, I’m nothing if not keeping it real for you”

“This is very true…” Nicole laughed as she handed Waverly a glass. “Tell me about your day…”.

Waverly took a sip of her drink as Nicole sat on the couch and crossed her legs

“Christ that tastes nice… This is unfair, we finish in two weeks, and it’s only NOW you introduce me to the good stuff-I should have been drinking this shit for months” Waverly highlighted with a wink. She placed the glass down and loaded the second machine

“My day… erm… it wasn’t too fraught, I finished off a book on Greek philosophers I have been ploughing through for my course, I started an essay on female influences within 20th century literature, and I did some cooking-that’s about it… what about you? Apart from the divorce…”

“I got a part in the new Fantastic Beasts movie…” Nicole replied calmly.

Waverly hadn’t hidden how much of a Harry Potter fan she was, so she stopped what she was doing immediately and looked back at Nicole

“Wh… what?” Waverly stuttered, trying to play it cool.

Nicole grinned and nodded

“That’s the other reason for the champagne-but you can’t tell anyone… I mean ANY.ONE. Not Chrissy, not your boy man… No-one”

“Okay, firstly, I no longer have a boy man. Secondly, when did you stop trusting me, and thirdly… I might have to say it out loud occasionally, so can I knock on the door and tell you every so often?” Waverly said with a beaming smile.

“You can tell me any time you want Waverly Earp”

Waverly squealed and jumped up and down. Nicole, realising what was coming, stood up and was ready when Waverly flung her arms around her in a tight embrace. The women laughed as they hugged and Waverly was so lost in the excitement she didn’t register she had pinned Nicole to the wall behind them until their laughter subsided and a quiet descended

“Sorry to hear about your boy man…” Nicole said as she looked Waverly in the eyes.

Waverly blushed fiercely (damn those puppy dog eyes) and pulled back, lightly pushing Nicole on the arm

“No your not…” she replied with a slight smile

“You’re right, I’m not… he was a prick…”

“I mean… you never met him…” Waverly retorted, continuing to smile as she did so

“I didn’t need to, he was a fool to treat someone like you the way he did… I’m only speaking the truth… you know… keeping it real…”

Waverly was about to reply when Nicole’s phone rang. She looked at the screen and sighed

“Its Jennifer, she’s asking where I am…”

Jennifer was an older actor that was currently playing Nicole’s mother in the play. She was a nice woman, and Nicole didn’t have a relationship with either or her parents, so Jennifer and her had become quite close.

“You should go…” Waverly said as she picked up her glass and took another sip of her drink.

“I know I just…” Nicole trailed off, looking at an old theatrical poster of Bernadette Peters in Gypsy

“Just what?” Waverly asked, feeling the air in the room shift slightly.

It felt charged. Waverly had felt it the first moment she had met Nicole, but as Nicole was married, Waverly dismissed any thoughts of what that could mean. But now Nicole was here, in the laundry, drinking with her and relaxing, and it felt like they had been doing this a lot longer than they had.

“Nothing… You’re right, I ought to go… Hey, if you need rescuing from Matt, send me a signal and I’ll bring out the cavalry”

“Oh really? How exactly are you going to do that when you’ll be having your ear chewed off by Geoff and Jennifer?” Waverly retorted.

Nicole smiled and stood up, draining her glass of champagne and taking a refill.

“You’ll have to wait and see won’t you…” Nicole replied with a wink.

Waverly blushed again, but luckily, this time, Nicole had already spun round and was heading for the door

“Hope you’re not too long”

“Hey Nicole” Waverly said suddenly. Nicole turned and looked Waverly in the eye “thanks for the drink”

“Thanks for drinking with me Waverly Earp” Nicole shot back quickly.

And then she was gone. Waverly let out a slow breath. Yep… she was definitely smitten…

***

Nicole turned the corner and headed up the stairs to stage door. She would usually go out there as soon as possible to sign autographs and have pictures taken, but tonight she just wanted a few moments alone with Waverly. She was hoping to chat to her when she came round for the washing, but then Shae had phoned and they’d rowed, so Nicole made sure she had an excuse to go and find the woman who was becoming more and more of a distraction.

Waverly Earp was breath taking in Nicole’s eyes. Smaller than her by half a foot, and a personality that she couldn’t seem to get enough of. She kept Nicole on her toes whilst also keeping her grounded, she was fascinating, she was witty, she was intelligent, she was sassy, she was fiery, she was understated, she made Nicole’s heart rate step up and she had the greatest smile Nicole had ever seen. And Nicole was a Hollywood star-people paid a lot of money to create that sort of dazzling smile-Waverly had it in abundance without even having to try.

She said goodnight to the stage door keeper, Brian, and was only stopped by a couple of fans waiting for her to appear. She apologised for keeping them waiting and spent a few minutes chatting and having selfies, before politely excusing herself and disappearing into the bar next door. The play had been on for nearly eight months, so the bar and surrounding restaurants had become a bit of a safe haven for the company, and Nicole found she was left in relative peace when they all went out to socialise together.

She smiled at her co-workers as she made her way over to Jennifer, who had ordered a bottle of wine for them to share. Nicole had snuck the glass of champagne in with her, so finished that before accepting a small glass of white wine from her friend. She sat with her colleagues and chatted happily enough, but her mind kept wandering back to Waverly Earp.

They had only known each other a month when Nicole announced to her estranged wife that they should call it quits and start divorce proceedings. Nicole had been drawn to Waverly like no-one else, and she couldn’t consciously stay married to anyone when her mind was clearly leading her elsewhere. As far as she knew, Waverly was unaware of her growing attraction, which was probably a good thing. But with the announcement of her divorce and the discovery the boy man (Chump? Chimp? Nicole couldn’t remember…) had been royally kicked to the kerb gave Nicole a feeling she had long since forgotten… a feeling of hope

They all finished their drinks and walked to the Turkish restaurant two blocks away. Nicole had asked her assistant to contact the owners to ensure they would stay open late, and that the bill would be on Nicole’s account. She didn’t tell anyone that though-she wanted to say thank you to every single person associated with this job. It had been one hell of a journey for her, and her gratitude was beyond a meal and drinks-but it was a way to say thanks without speeches and grand gestures.

Once seated, the wine was ordered and conversations were resumed. Nicole found herself between Jennifer and Rosita, another co-star of hers. She was a woman that liked to keep herself to herself, but was friendly enough during social gatherings. As it was a Thursday night, no one had to be at work before 5PM, and actors didn’t need to be there before 6PM for the company warm up on stage, so the evening had taken on a relaxed air, and the wine was flowing freely for all.

Nicole noticed when Waverly eventually joined the company. She noticed when Matt, the lighting guy stood up and pulled her chair out for her, and she noticed when Waverly caught her eye and smiled. Nicole was finding it increasingly difficult to keep her eyes away from Waverly, and the wine was making her bolder and more confident. She raised her glass slightly and winked, making Waverly laugh and shake her head. Jennifer then drew her back into a conversation about a new play she had read and was interested in getting Nicole and Rosita’s thoughts on.

The meal had been fantastic. Everyone was in high spirits, and when someone had mentioned going on to a club, the majority of the company agreed. Nicole found it hard to turn people down, and had to admit to herself that a night out dancing could do her the world of good. There were enough people in the group to ensure her anonymity was kept, and even if she was spotted, she felt confident in the group to make sure she wasn’t pestered too much.

They all climbed into Uber’s and headed into the city and for an exclusive club Nicole knew they could get VIP treatment in and an area roped off. She loved her job, and felt incredibly lucky that she could organise such an evening in a short space of time due to who she was-but sometimes she longed for the normality of just bar hopping with a bunch of friends and not worrying about the clientele, or worse, the press following her around.

Once inside and safely in an area that was just for them, Nicole relaxed once more and started to move about the company, catching up with everybody out that night. Most people had bought her story that the producers of the show had treated them all to their meal, and whilst she did have a drink in her hand, she made sure it lasted her a while. The character she was playing was emotionally demanding, and usually she would have sloped off after the meal-but not tonight. Tonight she was going to enjoy herself, and she was determined to make Waverly Earp smile that smile that made her knee’s go weak.

***

One thing that Waverly Earp liked more than a good book, was dancing.

She had been wedged between Matt from lighting (damn that Jeremy Chetri for leaving her for his crush) and Chrissy’s boyfriend Michael during the meal and had managed to float the idea of dancing to a few other colleagues whilst they were waiting for the bill.

When Jennifer announced to the table that Nicole had said the producers had picked up the tab, everyone had been delighted.

Apart from Waverly. She knew full well that Nicole had paid. Mainly because the producers were not in the habit of treating companies to dinner, but also because peoples partners were there-usually if producers were treating you, they wouldn’t extend the invitation to loved ones.

Once she was in the club, Waverly headed to the bar and ordered 2 glasses of champagne. She then made her way through the crowd to Nicole, who appeared to be deep in conversation with a woman Waverly didn’t know. Ever polite, Nicole seemed to be listening to this ladies every word, but as Waverly approached, she caught Nicole’s eye and saw a genuine smile appear on Nicole’s face. Waverly looked at the other woman and then back at Nicole, raising an eyebrow. Nicole winked at Waverly and then turned back to the woman so she could excuse herself.

“Well she seems friendly” Waverly said once Nicole had reached her.

“I have no idea who she is-I think she’s a friend of Jennifer’s, but I can’t remember…”

“Mmhmm” Waverly hummed “Well I’d hate to interrupt, but this is for you, and you have to drink champagne cold otherwise it’s ruined”

“You suddenly seem very clued up on champagne for someone who is a recent convert…” Nicole replied

“It’s amazing what google can tell you… Thank you for dinner”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about” Nicole said, blushing slightly

“Sure you do…” Waverly retorted. “And don’t worry, your third secret of the day is safe with me…”

“Waverly Earp, however can I thank you” Nicole responded with a grin.

“Well… how about I have a think and let you know…” Waverly flirted leaning in towards Nicole.

Nicole was about to respond when an arm came round Waverly’s shoulder and Chrissy appeared at her side swaying slightly

“Waves! I think we’re going to head, you coming?” Chrissy asked, seemingly oblivious to the moment Nicole and her were clearly having.

Waverly looked at Nicole and then back at her friend. She knew enough people to hang out a little longer, and truth be told, Waverly was enjoying her time with Nicole. She kissed Chrissy on the cheek and smiled

“Go ahead Chris, I think I’ll stay on for a bit-I haven’t even danced yet…” looking straight at Nicole as she said the last bit. Nicole grinned as she held Waverly’s gaze before Waverly reluctantly broke it and looked back at her friend

“Suit yourself-but get home safely please, Wynonna would shoot me with that damn gun of hers if something happened to you” Chrissy stated before turning to Nicole “See you tomorrow lovely, have a good night” Chrissy continued as she pulled Nicole in for a hug. Nicole accepted it warmly, and Waverly smiled as she witnessed the interaction.

Waverly watched Chrissy and Michael disappear through the crowd and then turned back to Nicole

“Whose Wynonna and why does she have a gun?” Nicole asked.

“It’s a long story, Wynonna is one of my sisters and she has a gun because she is… well… its difficult to explain really… she’s just… Wynonna…”

“How many Earp girls are there?”

“Three, but I don’t really speak to my oldest sister Willa… long and complicated history...”

“Well then say no more… So dancing huh? What do you want on?” Nicole said, changing the subject effortlessly

“Oh I don’t know… I love a bit of Stevie Wonder…”

“Which song? And don’t say Superstition”

“Whilst I do loves me a bit of Superstition, in my humbled opinion, it is over played… It’s a tough call”

“It’s not a tough call, its Sir Duke every time” Nicole stated simply

“Oh is that so?” Waverly chuckled, allowing a flirty tone to seep into her voice

“Absolutely. No question. Although Higher Ground is a close second” Nicole replied as she took another step towards Waverly.

Waverly was pretty certain Nicole was flirting back, and if she could get the first dance with Nicole, Waverly could go home happy

“I agree with you there” Waverly nodded as she took a sip of her drink

“I tell you what, I’ll get them to play a Stevie classic, you and I will dance, and then I have to go home to bed… I have a crazy day of meetings tomorrow and I need to bring my game to them”Nicole suggested.

Just as she was about to respond a camera flash went off nearby. Nicole swung round and saw some press immediately.

“Fuck” Nicole muttered under her breath.

She took a deep sigh and then turned to Waverly

“I have to go… if I stay, this place is going to go crazy, and that ruins everyone’s night…” Nicole explained as she started to back away to grab her things and escape to her driver waiting at the back of the club

“Okay” Waverly agreed, trying to hide the disappointment in her voice. Nicole turned to look at Waverly and took a step back towards her

“Look… I… If I stay, and we dance, that’s it, it’s all over the press in the morning, and whilst there is nothing I’d like more than to lead you out onto the dance floor and embarrass myself with my awkward moves and dire singing, it would be bedlam for you-and I don’t want that… So can you do me a favour, please Waverly?” Nicole asked.

Waverly nodded her head as Nicole leant down and whispered “Can you just hold that thought…”

Nicole then pulled back away, smiled and turned on her heel, heading out the back and towards the waiting car